A few days ago, I sent an email about the most visited cities in the world, along with a list of my favorite cities. I now realize that just about any city that we visit and experience can be one of our favorite cities.
The Key: you must start with an open mind, and two, you need to walk or use public transportation to see the town or city.
First, many cities in the United States can surprise us with their charm and hidden cultural and musical talents. I found this to be true of Memphis, TN. I went ostensibly to see Beale Street and Elvis Presley’s Graceland. But I also made my way to famous Stax Records, the famous Peabody Hotel with their ducks, and met their local blogger who works for the city paper. Yet, Nashville, due to the Grand Ole Opry, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, and Opryland gets the majority of visits and discussion.
Though hardly a secret, San Diego remains one of my favorite cities. Not only is the weather ideal, the city is fairly compact, rich with public transportation, world famous zoo, great golf and beaches, and fabulous seafood. Add to that, it is the home of dear friends, and a great place to see my Giants play the hometown Padres. Mostly, it is not Los Angeles!
My cousin’s parents live in Columbus, Ohio, certainly not the hotbed of tourism. Yet, I found the university community and city to be quite vibrant, and diverse. They have a nice bike share program, and dozens of restaurants and bars within walking distance to downtown. I could see spending more time there!
Many smaller cities, perhaps best called towns, can be appealing as well. One of my favorites is Bigfork, Montana, a cute little town on Flathead Lake, and home to the great Candlewycke Inn. Not far from Glacier National Park, and adventure capital, Whitefish, it offers the best of American small town charm. Somewhat larger, Jackson Hole, WY and Colorado Springs, CO are home to both adventure, and a taste of the wild west.
Everyone who goes to Hawaii visits either Honolulu or Maui. But Kauai is the best island in my experience. Small, one road circles most of the island, and the people are the best!! Interesting restaurants, Waimea Canyon, and lots of local culture.
Venturing out of the country, some favorites in Canada and Mexico come to mind. I was in Mexico City in April, and found the city to be world class in terms of food, hotels, and nightlife. Though I was ill from altitude sickness, it did not dampen my enthusiasm for this great metropolis. And very bike friendly too!
In Canada, two of my favorites are Montreal and Vancouver. Montreal is quite French in its culture and vibe, without the trans Atlantic flight to get there. In other worlds, it is a friendlier version of Paris! And Vancouver has many options, including outdoor adventure, farm to food restaurants (one of the leaders in this recent phenomenon), great shopping, and serves as a big cultural center for Canadians.
Further down, both Santiago, Chile, and Lima, Peru are gaining a foothold as tourist destinations. I could also add Medellin, Columbia, and Quito Ecuador. Both very nice cities to visit, though I do no need to go back any time soon.
Across the big Pacific pond, I love the city of Hanoi, as it retains its French colonial charm. It is a young people’s city, full of energy, bars, and restaurants. I would go back in a heart beat, even tough I was just there last October. Less known to many is the little Malaysian island of Penang, home to what I would say is the best food in the world. I have a only few left to explore, in western Australia, and northern Japan.
In the Old World, I think Prague intrigues me the most, along with Istanbul to a lesser extent. I am actually going back to two cities that I last visited almost 45 years ago, Berlin, and Amsterdam. And many of you have recommended Dublin, Ireland, where I get a free stopover on my flight to Amsterdam.